Dell is Adding Webcam and Microphone Kill Switches in Linux Kernel

Dell adds new code to the Linux kernel that disables the new webcam and microphone in the Dell system via hotkeys. What for? Because personal life.

Privacy is no longer a luxury. It has become a fundamental necessity.

Niche devices for private use, such as the Librem series, are equipped with hardware switches to lock webcam, microphone, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

In 2021, Dell will also offer hardware kill switches in the form of keyboard combinations. It implements a kill switch at the kernel level, allowing the webcam and microphone to be turned off via hotkeys.

Dell Adds Hardware Data Protection Driver to Linux Kernel

In a fix on the Linux kernel, Dell revealed its privacy driver that protects the privacy of audio and camera hardware users at the hardware level. Once the audio or camera privacy mode is enabled, an application no longer receives audio or video streams.

The Ctrl+F4 key combination activates the privacy mode and the Ctrl+F9 key combination activates the camera’s silent mode.

Why is this important? Is Linux so insecure that anyone can use your webcam remotely?

It’s an obvious question, and I want to make something clear about it. We live in a networked world that makes intensive use of the Internet with a wide variety of applications.

If your operating system can be protected at the kernel level, there may be some intrusion at the application level. Browser extensions are used to steal data. Imagine an unauthorized browser extension with access to a webcam or microphone?

Therefore, hardware access to a webcam, microphone, etc. is the best option. Dell’s new privacy drivers offer this feature.

As Foronix noted, there is also an indication that Dell is running under the privacy driver on the privacy screen. The privacy screen reduces the horizontal/vertical viewing angles of the screen so that viewers cannot clearly see the content on the screen.

When will the Dell Data Protection Driver be available? Will it be for everyone?

There is no planning at the moment because everything is under development. Don’t forget that this is a special Dell solution that will be implemented in new models from 2021.

Although I think it should be available for any Dell device because it is included in the Linux kernel, I can not confirm this.

What if you want to protect your privacy now?

If you’re intrigued and want to maintain your privacy by turning off your webcam, microphone, monitor, etc., there’s no need to buy new Dell equipment. Additional accessories are available for this purpose.

You can use external accessories for your webcam, such as B. a webcam blocker with a slider. I had one from the Free Software Foundation when I chose their annual membership. You can easily order it on Amazon or other e-commerce sites in your country.

There are similar devices for locking the microphones. I’ve never used them, so I can’t guarantee their effectiveness.

You can also use privacy filters that disable viewing angles so that people in public places such as cafes, airports, etc. cannot see what you are doing on your laptop. I’ve seen people use it at technology conferences and it works very well.

All in all, it’s great to see that major manufacturers like Dell take privacy seriously. Let’s hope that other manufacturers will follow suit.


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